HC Deb 19 February 1856 vol 140 cc1009-12

said, he was given to understand that neither of the two great parties in the House intended to oppose his Motion for leave to bring in a Bill to provide for compensation to tenants for improvement of land in Ireland. However, instead of expressing his satisfaction at there being no opposition to the introduction of his Bill, he ought rather to express his surprise that they should leave to a Member sitting below the gangway the honour of introducing a measure with regard to the necessity of which both parties were agreed. Two Bills on tenant right were introduced in the Sessions of 1852 and 1853, by two successive Ministers; the one under the auspices of the Government of Lord Derby, and endorsed with the responsible names of the then Attorney General, the Solicitor General, and the Secretary for Ireland; the other, under the sanction of the Government of which the present Premier was a distinguished Member, and the care of which was confided to the Irish Secretary. The preambles of the two Bills concurred in reciting that it would tend to the improvement and better cultivation of laud if provision were made by law for securing to tenants in Ireland compensation for improvements made in land in their lawful possession, and likewise would be expedient to provide compensation for improvements made by outgoing tenants. It followed, or ought to follow, that both parties were of opinion compensation should be made for improvements to Irish tenants. How was it that no such Bill had been introduced by the Government? The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) said he had received no encouragement to do so. He (Mr. G. Moore) candidly confessed that he must admit the truth of the reply. The noble Lord had received no encouragement to protect the rights of the tenantry of Ireland, just as the noble Lord the Member for the city of London received no encouragement in 1847 to protect their lives. The noble Lord had not received that wholesome encouragement which alone induced Ministers to move—that encouragement which, subsequently to 1847, was extended to the noble Lord the Member for London at the time of the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, and was so exceedingly efficacious, pour encourager les autres. In many successive Sessions Mr. Sharman Crawford endeavoured in vain to induce Parliament to consider this question. At the general election in 1852, however, the Irish people, admonished by previous errors, sent to those benches, not the scanty remnant which lingered there, but half a hundred representatives, pledged to carry a measure for securing Irish, tenant right. Yielding to that most formidable encouragement, the Attorney General, under Lord Derby's Government, discovered that his whole life had been passed in the elucidation of the question, and that he had just succeeded in arriving at its solution—that Mr. Sharman Crawford was only a young beginner, and that he was the real Simon Pure. He would do the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) the justice to say ho did introduce a measure which, under proper encouragement, might have been ultimately moulded into a great boon for the tenant farmers of Ireland. Unfortunately that result was prevented, and the measure and the Government perished together. On the accession of the next Ministry, the motive power, encouragement, was divided nearly half and half, and the consequences were half and half measures on the part of the Government and the Opposition. Both Bills were sent to a Committee, and the Committee reported to the House. He hesitated to pursue the question further because he hesitated to speak with disrespect of either side of the House of Commons, but he thought no hon. Member would venture to assert that the proceedings which ensued were creditable to either party. The right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin and the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) taunted the right hon. and learned Member for Athlone (Mr. Keogh) and the hon. and learned Member for Ennis (Mr. J. D. Fitzgerald). The hon. and learned Members for Athlone and Ennis retorted upon the hon. and learned Members for the University and Enniskillen, the hon. and learned Serjeant the Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee) plaintively upbraiding both sides in succession, and both sides in succession laughing at the learned Serjeant. Those matters were written in Hansard, and he had no wish to revive disagreeable and ridiculous reminiscences. But, although in the present state of Irish encouragement, he believed that neither party in the House would undertake the conduct of this disturbed and perplexed question, at the same time he was glad to say, neither party was so lost to a sense of what was due to their own character for consistency, as, by refusing leave, virtually to admit that two successive Executives had made two successive bids in a dishonest auction for Irish votes. He felt satisfied that such men as the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin on the one hand, and the hon. and learned Solicitor General for England on the other—men fairly representing the legal authority of both parties, men responsible not only to party and ephemeral reputation, but to their own name and fame as jurists and statesmen, meant what they said when they declared it was just and wise and expedient, to provide compensation for improving tenants in Ireland. He would not, therefore, at the present stage of proceedings, be guilty of such impertinent waste of time and words as to endeavour to confirm by any authority such as his principles which rested on such high authority as theirs, or to argue that which they had admitted and maintained, namely, the claim of Irish tenants for compensation for improvements of land, in whose behalf he now asked leave to introduce his Bill. He would simply conclude by moving for leave to introduce a Bill— To provide for the better securing of and regulating the custom of Tenant Right as practised in the province of Ulster, and to secure Compensation to improving Tenants who may not make claim under the said custom, and to limit the power of Eviction in certain cases.

Leave given.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. MOORE and Mr. MAGUIRE.